Americans Dont Mind the Links Game

By Golf Channel NewsroomJuly 15, 2003, 4:00 pm
SANDWICH, England (AP) -- Arnie's Army led the invasion more than four decades ago.
 
The impact is still being felt through a new generation of American golfers, who have become quite adept at bumping and running their way around the links on this side of the Atlantic.
 
Six of the last eight British Open champions have come from the United States, a country that once scorned the oldest of the four majors.
 
'We've dominated it ever since we began to take it seriously,' said Lee Janzen, practically thumping his American chest Monday after a practice round at Royal St. George's. 'We've dominated all the majors, for that matter.'
 
Actually, he's embellishing the truth just a bit. The rest of the world took control of the British in 1984, the start of an 11-year period in which Mark Calcavecchia was the lone American winner.
 
Suddenly, it became fashionable to say that U.S. golfers, accustomed to playing lush courses and shooting straight at the flag, couldn't handle the stark, barren links of golf's roots.
 
'It definitely takes some getting used to,' U.S. Open champion Jim Furyk said. 'I wouldn't want to do this every week. But the best players adjust, no matter what the conditions.'
 
The American renaissance began in 1995, when John Daly pulled off his improbable playoff victory at St. Andrews. Tom Lehman won the following year, then came Justin Leonard in '97 and Mark O'Meara in '98.
 
Scotland's Paul Lawrie broke the U.S. streak in '99, but Tiger Woods and David Duval won the next two British titles. Ernie Els of South Africa is the defending champion.
 
'It goes in cycles,' said Sweden's Jesper Parnevik, who once played the European Tour but now is a regular on the American-based PGA Tour. 'For the last six or seven years, America has had the top players in the world.'
 
Ben Hogan played the British Open one time, won it -- and never came back. In those days, it cost more to make the trip to Europe than an American player could win.
 
But Arnold Palmer's first British appearance in 1960 -- after he already won the Masters twice and the U.S. Open once -- sparked a change in attitude.
 
Palmer finished second in his British debut, then won the tournament in '61 and '62. Over the next two-plus decades, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Lee Trevino, et al, helped maintain American dominance.
 
'If anything, I'm surprised that Europe had their spell,' Janzen said. 'I just think there are more good American players.'
 
Beginning with Palmer's victory, U.S. players claimed 16 British titles in a 23-year period. Watson won it five times, Nicklaus was a three-time champion and Trevino went back-to-back in 1971-72. For good measure, Bill Rogers and Tom Weiskopf won their only majors in Britain.
 
Things began to change in 1984, when Spain's Seve Ballesteros captured the second of his three British crowns. Over the next decade, Calcavecchia's playoff victory in '89 would be the only American victory.
 
Nick Faldo of England triumphed on his home turf three times. Australia's Greg Norman won his only two majors at the British.
 
'For quite some time, the Europeans dominated the Masters, then Tiger comes along and dominates it. The turntable is going towards Americans,' said Sandy Lyle, who won the 1985 Open at Royal St. George's. 'That can change very quickly. We've got some young players now in Europe who are ready to break through.'
 
If anything, the supposed advantage that Europeans have on links courses may be overstated. Granted, many British youngsters grow up playing the bump-and-run style, but most of the Euro Tour is contested on American-inspired layouts.
 
Just last week, the Scottish Open was played at Loch Lomond, which would fit right in statewide. The warmup tournament provided little guidance for the rock-hard turf and perilous dips and bumps that golfers will encounter at Royal St. George's.
 
'A lot of the modern-design courses in Europe are very much toward the American style,' Lyle said. 'Loch Lomond, really look at it, it's like an American golf course. The type of grass we use, the way the bunkers are shaped, the style of bunkers are very much towards America.'
 
Steve Flesch also has noticed the difference between perception and reality.
 
'I don't think Europeans play this golf very much unless they grow up on a course like this,' he said. 'A lot of Europeans events I've seen on television, they're flying it at the flag and making it stop.'
 
While the European tour tends to be contested in more challenging weather, the difference isn't that great, according to Parnevik.
 
'We play in a lot of wind in the States, more than the European guys give us credit for,' Parnevik said, revealing his split loyalties. 'It's not like we're playing in Palm Springs weather every week. This year especially. It's been terrible.'
 
All things being equal, the stars and stripes have depth on their side. Americans have claimed 17 of the top 30 spots in the world ranking, including six in the top 10.
 
'If you look at it, these are really highly ranked players who are winning,' Flesch said. 'Even though conditions are different, they're able to adapt. If you're on your game, you can figure it out.'
 
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    Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

    Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

    While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

    He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

    "A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

    Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

    "If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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    Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

    When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

    Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

    "I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"


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    The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

    Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

    "It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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    DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

    World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

    Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

    "It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

    Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

    Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

    "I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

    Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

    "If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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    LPGA lists April date for new LA event

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

    The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

    When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

    The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

    The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.